The government pressed on with privatisation of the NHS yesterday with a new plan that will see it become a US-style profit-making machine abroad while ramming through crippling cuts at home.
From the autumn, the Department of Health and UK Trade and Investment will invite British hospitals to exploit international patients at new foreign branches to fill the funding gaps caused by the coalition’s cuts.
The scheme was reportedly inspired by US hospitals such as Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins which have set up similar international branches.
Allegedly upfront investment could only be drawn from income received from private patients and any profits made abroad would be channelled back into British hospitals.
But campaigners say it will create an NHS where privatisation is the norm.
Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy said: “The guiding principle of the NHS must be to ensure that outcomes and care for patients comes before profits.
“At a time of huge upheaval in the health service, when waiting times are rising and trusts are being asked to make £20 billion of efficiency savings, this is another concerning distraction.
“The priority of the government, hospital trusts and clinicians should be NHS patients.”
Royal College of Nursing general secretary Dr Peter Carter also warned the move would be a distraction with organisations looking abroad “when they should be concentrating on fixing what’s under their own nose first.”
A union has warned that anticipated job losses at a Greater Manchester hospital will impact on patient care.
It follows the news that about 200 posts are expected to go across Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, due to a savings plan to fill financial gaps.
A Unison representative said the cuts would affect front-line services being provided at Royal Bolton Hospital.
David Wakefield, the newly appointed trust chairman, said patient services were safe.
The trust requires savings of up to £20m to become financially stable.
Harry Hanley, Unison branch secretary, said he expected the job losses to be greater than predicted.
He said: “They’re saying it won’t affect front-line services, but it is going to because we are a team.
“For example if you take away medical records staff from the team, who is going to do the work?
“It will all fall down on front-line staff as there’s no-one else there to do it.”